Thursday, April 13, 2017

From Sap to Syrup

There is always time to learn something new.  There is also plenty of time to pursue a passion. We saw this lesson being demonstrated right before Spring Break. Mr. Kirk Hedding, a firefighter (and his wife, a school teacher) take time out of their busy schedules to pursue their passion and teach others something that most people enjoy but probably not think much about.  The Kindergartners traveled to Chelsea, Michigan to H & H Sugarbush Farm that, from the highway, just looks like a lovely and spacious home on a vast piece of property.   Inside the grounds, however, is some extra sweetness in the form of a generous spirit and the making of maple syrup.  Mr. Kirk explained that he and his wife decided to tap the many maple trees on their family's property just like his wife's family did beginning over a hundred years ago.

 He began our tour by first showing us a room where he had been busily stoking a fire in a little wood burning stove just before our arrival.  He walked us through a vast number of shiny machines, instruments and containers used for extracting the water from the sap, measuring and maintaining ideal temperatures and cooking down the liquid gold.

We then ventured across a muddy cornfield to a beautiful wooded area where the maple magic originates.

View of the beautiful home and sugar shack processing station.

We stopped at one tree in particular to examine the sturdy bucket used to catch the sap as it dripped from a spile in the tree.  Kirk explained that these metal "straws" do not damage the trees even though they leave evidence of scars just like skin would if poked.
He also explained that maple trees yield only a little bit of sap at this time of year due to increasingly warmer temperatures.  Freezing and warm temperatures are necessary for sap flow.  We discovered that it actually takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup!

The Kindergartners were amused by the fact that one of the great deterrents to effective sap collection are pesky squirrels that chew the tubing that the sap travels through. 

A few friends gathered to admire a tiny maple tree that could be possibly be around yet another hundred years from now. 

Back at the sugar shack, Mr. Kirk explained to us the many innovations that have occurred over the years to make sap collection more effective. Sap levels are easier to spot from a distance in plastic bags  and they can keep out bugs and other debris. Kirk stated that he is so used to the layout of the family's grove of trees, he can walk the grounds to check on things even in darkness.

We were able to play a game about various types of seeds and the trees they produce and found out that Michigan is one of the leading states in maple sugar production.

One of the highlights of our trip was finding out how to make maple candy and being able to sample H& H's delicious maple products.

Mr. Hedding holds up a bottle of 100 year old syrup purchased by the founder!

Thanks to generosity of Kirk Hedding and his family our trip was interesting, informative and sweet!  We chatted about our experience for days.  We are also discovering how maple syrup production fits right in to our theme unit of "Sustainability"!

And, of course we had their delicious syrup on pancakes for snack the next day!
A special THANK YOU to Jackson's family for suggesting the outing and for providing the pancakes!

Monday, April 10, 2017

April Month at a Glance!

Sap slowly dripping from a tree at H & H Maple Syrup Farm, Chelsea

This Month's Theme:  Sustainability

M-F April 3rd-7th       Spring Break (also Friday, March 31st)
Monday, April 10th       School resumes!
Tuesday, April 11th       1st Day of Passover!
                                Trip to Normal Park for community gardening
Friday, April 14th         SK Morning Meeting & Friday Coffee with Walter
Sunday, April 16th       Easter Sunday!
Friday, April 21st         Cooking Science in the A.M.
                               Pre-Earth Day cleanup on K playground and grounds 
Saturday, April 22nd   Eudaimonia SK Annual Scholarship Fundraiser
Monday, April 25th     Spring school pictures with baby ducks!
Wed., April 26th      Kindergarten Music Performances 8:50 & 2:30, Music Room


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Our Travels Further in to Ancient Egypt!

Kindergartners continued their journey into the realm of the Ancient Egyptians and the study of the mummification process in particular.  We are finding out some interesting details about this very sophisticated process using books, artwork, x-ray photos, artifact models and the Internet then comparing this information with modern day burial practises.

We were surprised to learn what internal organs Egyptian embalmers stored in canopic jars and deemed as important for the "Afterlife" and which ones they chose to throw away (the brain for instance.) Coincidentally, Ks had a recent visit from Isha's Dad, a neurologist, who explained the importance of the brain so were a bit confused by the Egyptian's choice.

We created models of mummies using shredded paper pulp, warm water and glue.  Ks were reminded that once the mummy was formed it should be left alone undisturbed to dry properly.  We did not have to wait as long as the Ancient Egyptians (their process took about 90 days altogether) but we did need our figures to dry out for about 9 days. In the meantime, we had a real life incident happen as an example of why one would want a wrapped "body" to dry out completely. Our K classroom seeped in a bit of water during a heavy rain storm recently. A small section of our carpeting was soaked! In our quest to dry our floors we "mummified" the area using large bath towels that acted as linen bandages and sprinkled baking soda (our version of natron/salt) to avoid rotting and smelling.  (Every teachable moment counts!) It worked!  The carpet is sufficiently preserved for years to come!

After our paper mache mummies were allowed to dry out for a few weeks, they were wrapped with gauze strips and allowed to dry some more.  In the meantime, shabtis (small doll like figures) were created out of clay to represent servants in the afterlife.  Shabtis are place inside the sarcophagus and wrapped in the mummies bandage layers. The quantity of shabtis indicated wealth so Kindergarten created lots!

Our Head of School, Walter happened to stop by during our activity and appeared intrigued by our gooey yet scientific embalming process. 

In Math class, we have been challenging our critical thinking skills while converting numbers into Ancient Egyptian symbols. We are also using skewers to practice counting by 1s, tally groups of 5 and bundle groups of ten sticks in the process.  Problem solving and logical thinking skills were paired with group discussions and partnerships to hopefully make the task more palatable.  Kindergartners are taking more risks by doing something 'hard' and appear pleased with some of their results. 

Another Math activity included a "Minute to win it" challenge to work together to assemble a steady pyramid!

As a part of one of our writing activities during Language Arts, Ks performed the role of the Egyptian scribe while using hieroglyphic stamps to spell out their names and other words on papyrus like paper.

Kindergartners traveled to the U of M Kelsey Museum of Archeology to visit our favorite docent, Jean.  She led us on a tour of the museum's many acquisitions including Dr. Kelsey's excavation of an ancient Egyptian city.  We marveled at the well preserved woven baskets, writing desks, pottery, glass work, sandals, decorative slabs and toys.  We also compared the elaborately carved sarcophagus of a priest to the greatest find to date, that of King Tutankhamen.

Examples of  canopic jars and shabtis
Docent Jean also told us that archaeologists have found ways to x ray mummies without unwrapping them or disrespecting some burial rituals.  3D imaging gives us a clearer picture of how certain figures may have looked in life and how Ancient Egyptians, including King Tut, may have died.  Kindergartners are hopefully learning ways to admire and celebrate history and culture in respectful ways.